Sunday Rundown – That’s What She Read

Amy Poehler, book haul, books, currently reading, Dickens, Marvel, Netflix, Paul Rudd, recently watched, Thor
So, this week a new Oxfam books store opened up a couple of doors down form work. I always try to buy books from charity shops if I can because it makes me feel less guilty about indulging in my passion despite having no space or money for books. You know, it doesn’t become a present for myself but a way to help the less fortunate. I’m not treating myself; I’m doing a good deed. It’s taken all of my willpower to not stop in every day this week and I managed to come away only having gone in their once. I made a small (ish) haul and was incredibly satisfied with the results. I also happened to be shopping at the same time as a rather attractive young man. A life of reading books and watching sappy TV and films had prepared me for this moment. As we were both browsing the classics section we would both reach out for the same book. We’d laugh awkwardly before bonding over our love of books. Boom! Love, marriage, kids. We all lived happily ever after. What actually happened was: I nearly tripped over my extremely long coat after perusing the bottom shelf, I nearly bumped into him and I left the shop no closer to finding my soul mate than I was walking in. Why can’t life be as simple as it is when an author is neatly plotting every twist and turn?

Weekly Blog Posts

  • TUESDAY’S REVIEWS – Thor Ragnarok (2017)

After trying to organise a cinema trip with a friend for ages I finally got to see the latest Thor. It’s no real spoiler to say that I fucking loved it but if you fancy more information my review is up here.

  • BOOK POST

I promise you I was planning on writing a bookish post this week but, when it came to Wednesday, I just had nothing in me. I was exhausted and fell asleep far too early. I’d rather post better quality stuff than rigidly stick to my schedule so this could be happening more than I’d like.

  • TBT – Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Watching Thor Ragnarok gave me the perfect excuse to finally watch Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople for my TBT review this week. Everything you need to know is here.

Currently Reading

  • Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
I was actually planning on spending most of today blasting through this book but I woke up feeling dreadful. I’m full of cold. Well, half of my face is full of it. My right nostril is so bunged up that every time I breathe in it sounds like the low growling noise the T-Rex makes in Jurassic Park. So, instead of reading I’ve slumped in front of Netflix and napped all day. Not a productive use of my day off but I appreciated it.

Recently Purchased 
  • Oxfam book haul

Believe me, there were plenty of books I could have walked away with but the stupid card machine wasn’t working and I only had a limited amount of cash on me. Thankfully I guess. I still managed to pick up four bargains. 

    • The first was a gorgeous simple copy of The Stranger by Albert Camus. I’ve not read any Camus besides The Plague, which I gave up on halfway through. This is widely considered to be his best book so I figured giving it a try might inspire me to restart The Plague eventually.
    • The second was a vintage copy of Crime and Punishment with a weird, trippy cover. I already own too many copies of this book considering how many times I’ve tried and failed to finish it. This is the smallest though so it might be better for reading on the go.
    • The third is a find I’m really excited about. You can so rarely find good quality Penguin Clothbound Classics in charity shops that I couldn’t pass up the chance to get Great Expectations. I book this just for the edition but this is one of only 2 Dickens books that I genuinely really like.
    • The final book is my favourite of them all. It’s a gorgeous and slightly creepy illustrated edition of Animal Farm. The illustrations are really striking and I just couldn’t put it back. I had to have it. The book didn’t have a price so I was super worried it would be out of my budget. Thankfully the woman named an incredibly reasonable price of £2.99. She even looked apologetic about it! I seriously could have hugged her.


Recently Watched 
  • Netflix Binges: Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years LaterJohnathan CreekJack Whitehall: Travels with my Father
I’ve still not let myself start rewatching Stranger Things 2 yet because I rushed it last time. I feel like I’ve got to give myself time for watch number 2. Instead I’ve binged all of Johnathan Creek: a series I’ve watched far too many times considering the amount the quality drops after the first few series. Still, there’s something about Alan Davies playing a magicians technical consultant who also solves crimes that just gets me excited. Today I watched the new Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later. I watched and semi-enjoyed both the film Wet Hot American Summer and the Netflix series First Day of Camp when I watched them but can’t say I was particularly blown away. Still, the cast list always manages to drag me in so I eventually watched it. I just still don’t think any of these are as clever as anyone making them thinks they are. They’re not even silly enough for it to good. I don’t know. There were some good moments. Finally, I started watching Travels with my Father and I adore it. I’m not the biggest Jack Whitehall fan but have watched him enough to want to see this. There have been so many awkward and hilarious moments that I hope there are more series to come.

Tuesday’s Reviews: Thor Ragnarok (2017)

Cate Blanchett, Chris Hemsworth, comic book, comic books, films, fuck yeah, fucking funny, Mark Ruffalo, Marvel, review, silly, Thor, Tom Hiddleston


I have to say , considering the quality of the previous 2 Thor films, it’s been pretty difficult to be a fan of Marvel’s God of Thunder. He has always been my favourite male superhero in the Marvel comic book world but it’s been hard to convince non-comic book fans that he deserves that title. Iron Man is the funny and cool one thanks to RDJ. Captain America has, the best Marvel film, Winter Solider, to make himself look better. But Thor? He’s had a pretty poor showing in terms of solo film outings. I say as someone who adores the first Thor film but also understands that it leaves a lot to be desired. I understand the second one is dire but we don’t need to go into that again. This back catalogue of frustratingly weak films have meant that a lot of people have overlooked Thor. He hasn’t made enough of an impact. His own films are just irritatingly lacking and he tends to get lost in the huge ensembles of the two Avengers movies. Heck, he wasn’t even allowed in Civil War. Instead Thor was benched along with the other Avenger that nobody really knows what to do with: the Hulk. The problem is the very concept of the Thunder God. He’s so caught up in mythology that there is a tendency to play him straight. Living up in his own realm of the God’s means he feels even less realistic than the rest of the line-up and that really is saying something. His roles in these films have left Thor feeling like the weak link in the chain. He’s neither the funniest, the most badass, nor the most memorable of the Avengers. Hollywood just doesn’t know what to do with him. Or at least they didn’t. From the minute the first images of Ragnarok came out I was convinced this would be the film we Thor fans have been waiting for. It had Guardians of the Galaxy style humour, an 80s aesthetic, and a fucking awesome soundtrack. Even before I’d seen it I was sure it was going to be my cup of tea. Of course, the fact that it would also serve as the closest we’d get to a Planet Hulk movie was just an added bonus.

The main problem that I remember from watching Thor: The Dark World is that it tried far too hard to be dark. It was around the time that Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was at the height of its popularity and before Zack fucking Snyder made us all weary of the grungy, angsty comic book movie. It didn’t really have that fun, silliness, or, at the very least, self-awareness that the best Marvel films have in buckets. It was all dark elves, family melodrama, and a naked Stellan Skarsgård. The second Thor film was trying to be something it wasn’t and the end result really showed what a mistake it was. Thankfully, for his third solo outing for the MCU, it seems Marvel have really learnt their lesson. Despite the title’s reference to Ragnarok, the apocalyptic demise of the Norse God’s, this film is anything but dark. Something we learn from the very first scene is that not only has Thor finally found an on screen presence but he’s managed to pick up a great sense of humour along the way.

For too long comic book movies have been trying to make themselves seem as grown-up and serious. Ragnarok understands that all of this is so crazy that it’s pointless trying to play it straight. Marvel films have dabbled in humour before but Thor 3 has a completely different feel to it. It’s more like a comedy film that happens to be about comic book characters instead of a comic book movie with more jokes. Marvel have always been good at letting unexpected directors have a go at massive Blockbusters but New Zealand born director Taika Waititi is, perhaps, the weirdest so far. Thankfully, he was allowed the chance to do his own thing and, as we can see, it works wonderfully.

Ragnarok has a bit of work to do before it gets down to the real business. We left The Dark World with Loki on the throne in disguise and we last saw Thor vowing the track down the remaining infinity stones. So Thor goes back to Asgard to sort shit out but, before he’s even got time to breathe, his long lost sister Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, turns up to royally fuck shit up. She wants revenge on her father and his people for casting her out years ago. Unfortunately, as this is going on Thor (Christ Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) find themselves stranded on a distant planet, Sakaar, presided over by the villainous Grand Master (Jeff Goldblum). Whilst Loki is taken in as a friend, Thor is captured and turned into a gladiator. With no other means of escape, Thor is left with no other choice but to fight the Grand Master’s Champion; who, as we all know, just happens to be the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Can Thor, the Big Guy, his sketchy brother and their new ally, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), an ex-Asgardian warrior with a grudge to settle.

In terms of the basic narrative there isn’t a great deal of excitement and Ragnarok treads very worn Marvel ground. This rag-tag bunch of heroes come together to fight a big evil to save the world. However, there is so much more going on that it doesn’t even feel that familiar. The sub-plot on Sakaar is fabulous and both Hemsworth and Ruffalo get the chance they both deserve to flesh out their characters. His recent pitstop in comedy films has left Christ Hemsworth with a greater comedic confidence and, for the first time since he first donned the red cape, he looks comfortable in the role. Conversely, Ruffalo finally has something to do as he starts to flesh out the green monster before the upcoming Infinity War films. I’ve read criticism that the film completely rewrites these characters but I just see it as positive development. This is one friendship I can’t wait to see get stronger.

There are some amazing performances on display in this film. Jeff Goldblum is at his most Jeff Goldblum and manages to walk the line of annoyingly hammy without falling into oblivion. Tess Thompson is sensational in her role and more than makes up for the abysmal female presence in the previous Thor films. Tom Hiddleston is perfect as Loki, as usual, but over time I find myself tiring of the “is he good or bad?” narrative. It just gets old. Still, I’m always happy to see that face. Finally, Idris Elba, returning as Heimdall, is worth noting. If only for the fact that, at the point that he takes off his cloak, his beefy arms. I love the change Heimdall has made from Gatekeeper to fucking badass.

My only real problem with Ragnarok (aside from the pointless and built up Dr Strange cameo) is Hela herself. The great villain looks the part but never gets the chance to get going. It’s a waste of Blanchett’s talents and a potentially great bad guy. Every time the action switches back to Asgard I couldn’t help but wish I was back on Sakaar. Hela feels out of place in this film just as all the references to genocide and darker elements do. These references are fleeting but they do stick out badly. There are also some poignant moments that are not dealt with properly. It can feel a bit weird. But, really, it doesn’t matter. Everything is held together thanks to an immense amount of charm, humour and utter silliness. This film knows it’s dealing with nonsense so plays up on that fact. I lost count of the time I genuinely laugh-out-loud watching this. Minor problems aside, this the greatest Marvel movie you’ll ever have seen.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

books, fucking funny, fucking weird, Loki, myths, Neil Gaiman, retelling, reviews, Thor

I have had this book sitting on my shelf since the day it was released and I had only read bits and pieces until this month. It’s that I wasn’t excited to read it but I just felt that there were other books that needed reading first. This was surely going to be too much of a treat for myself and, with the speed at which I’ve been reading recently, I didn’t deserve one. I certainly didn’t deserve to gorge myself on Neil Gaiman’s retelling of the Nose Myths when I have books that are still on my TBR after 4 years. After all, Gaiman is one of those authors who could write anything and I’d enjoy it. He has that universal appeal that do many authors crave and he’s so goddamn nice as well. Of course, it also helps that I kind of have a thing about myths and legends anyway. I remember reading about Greek, Roman and Norse mythology when I was younger and loving it. It’s the Greek and Roman stories that have become so ingrained in our minds but the Norse myths were always the most exciting. I cite my love of those tales and Shakespeare as the reason that Thor is one of my favourite comic book characters. Obviously, there is a lot of difference between the Marvel representation of Odin’s son and that is something Gaiman is keen to point out at the start of his own retelling. However, with Thor: Ragnarok coming out later this year, it is a great time to get further into the tales that started everything off and I was lucky enough to do so with Neil Gaiman himself narrating them into my ear holes. It was blissful.

Neil Gaiman is an author who spans the literary genres but, as is evident throughout all of his work, he has been hugely influenced by ancient myths and legends. He has managed to forge an image of himself as the great storyteller and his works all have a certain amount of grandeur to them. His books often bring aspects of ancient mythology and present them in a modern setting. He has become so interlinked with this aspect of literary history that Norse Mythology would seemingly be the next logical step. Although, it is something of a departure for the writer. Instead of reimagining the stories of the Norse Gods, Gaiman is instead simply retelling them but in his own, incredibly readable and lovely manner. It is a project that part of me is completely fangirling over whilst the other point is trying not to ask “why?”

When it comes to Norse Mythology, there is a limit to what remains of the fables. The tales never really stuck in the way that other civilisations’ stories did. Most of the characters will be recognised more for their place in the comic book world created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Thor looks like Chris Hemsworth instead of the traditional red-headed powerhouse he once was. I’m not saying this is a problem and am sure that there are many people who’s interest in this area has been encouraged by the comics and films. After all, as Gaiman himself is quick to point out, it is through the Marvel comic books that he first encountered the Thunder God. It was the stories of Lee and Kirby that pushed him into reading more.

It is this lifelong love that has got us to the point where the writer has set down 15 tales in his own words in the hope that he can bring some of the joy he once experienced to a new audience. There is no real narrative structure but everything is culminating towards to the great finale: Ragnarok. The final undoing of the Gods and their creation. The chapters are essentially short stories featuring as cast of players that is set out to us at the start. Gaiman has taken the stories that remained and fleshed them out with his own style. He exaggerates a few characterisations, such as Thor’s limited intelligence and his Loki is more of prankster than the evil supervillain Tom Hiddleston has turned him into. He takes the bare bones of these fables and makes them unquestionably Gaiman. He adds his own humour to everything and isn’t afraid of modernising a few things when the need arises.

They are simple and written as if they are to be read aloud to a child. In his own way, Gaiman in trying to reignite the tradition of storytelling in which these tales would have first sparked people’s imaginations. It’s why I’m so glad that I listened to Gaiman’s narration instead of finishing the book myself. It really brings the characters to life and lets the humour really hit home. Every moment when the author himself slips into the narrative to make a sarcastic or slightly mocking comment on the proceedings is heightened when read in his own voice.

Still, as lovely as the experience of listening/reading this book was, I still can’t quite get over that niggling voice still asking “why?” I mean, there is nothing wrong with the way this book is written but I just feel that, with his own literary history, Gaiman could have reimagined these stories in a much more exciting way. There is something about reading him tell someone else’s tales that just feels off. It is the same voice that we are used to but the images and situations just don’t feel as Gaiman as they should. He has used the Norse Gods for his own purpose in the past in as Loki and Odin play a part in American Gods. It would have been interesting to see what he could do with the rest of them. As wonderful as this book is, it kind of feels like going to see a band who insists on only playing covers of author singers. You’ll ultimately enjoy it but it won’t feel right.

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Asgard, Chris Hemsworth, comic book, Loki, Marvel, review, sequel, Thor, Tom Hiddleston

169119r1

It has been two years since the God of Thunder first exploded onto our cinema screens and Chris Hemsworth’s third outing as the Asgardian prince with an incredibly heavy hammer. Personally, I really enjoyed Thor and was looking forward to seeing what the sequel had to offer. As I’ve already mentioned Thor is probably my favourite superhero and I think he has a lot of potential for film adaptations. Especially because the literature nerd in me loves the fact that I am essentially watching a Shakespeare play about Norse gods with a comic book twist. Plus, what kind of card-carrying Hiddlestoner would I be if I didn’t relish the thought of watching the most beautiful and talented actor around get to grips with his evil side?